Re-Commerce · E-Commerce

How to disrupt Ebay?

Charles-Albert Gorra Harvard Business School - MBA Student

June 20th, 2013

A good number of startups are trying to disrupt some of Ebay's verticals. In particular in second-hand clothing and fashion, there are a few successes like Poshmark, Threadflip, thredUp...What do you think are the qualities and value proposition required to be able to threaten Ebay ? Are you supportive of a peer-to-peer marketplace business model or rather of a full-service third-party that steps in as the middle man? 
Interested to hear your thoughts,
Thanks !! 


June 20th, 2013

This is actually exactly what I'm doing with AbbeyPost. We've chosen Plus Size women's clothing as our vertical. We launched an alpha (really an MVP) in January to test the waters. As of today we have over 6,500 highly engaged Facebook fans, ~9,000 uniques per month, sick pageviews... and *revenue*. The grand total of our "marketing spend" to date has been around $1,000. Do I believe Startups can disrupt eBay? Hell yes, with a tightly targeted vertical, deep domain expertise (I ran a highly profitable ecommerce startup previously for 6 years), and an emphasis on transparent user communication, strong editorial content, and a focus on community. Happy to talk further, feel free to ping me off-list at Best, Cynthia

Bill Kelley

June 20th, 2013

Ebay changed its orientation several years ago to favor and reward volume sellers. It has become a dumping ground for Chinese knock off goods in many categories. Not all categories are similarly affected, of course. 

Peer to peer was the foundation of eBay. Although barrier to entry is very high, a segment-by-segment attack, attracting the peer-to-peer low volume sellers could be a way in to eBay territory.

Of course, eBay's move to favor volume sellers was pragmatic, because that's where the repeat business is. And eBay understands well that retention is the key to profitability.

Is eBay vulnerable? Yes, but primarily in its least profitable; most costly-to-acquire segments. 

An eBay disruptor would live in the 'long tail' end of the market, and survive by being very selective with niches -- and likely by partnering in those niches...

Anand Iyer CEO & Founder at Trusted

June 23rd, 2013

Hi there,

Disclaimer: I run product @ Threadflip

I absolutely think it is possible to disrupt an eBay (or craigslist). The key is to provide a true value add over these incumbents and perhaps focus on a vertical (example: what Airbnb is doing to VRBO or craigslist). In Threadflip's case, I can tell you that the value adds are:
  • the barrier for entry to create a new listing is practically non-existent compared to eBay
    • creating a listing on Threadflip will take you roughly 1/5th the time
    • there are no listing fees
  • the demographic is hyper focused
  • we're riding the "mobile wave" and our app makes it ridiculously easy to buy or sell
  • we have focused very hard on the user experience to make this a site that users can trust to use
And focusing on the P2P aspect is easier to manage and scale relative to a "middle man" approach (I'm guessing you're referring to a consignment model).

Hope that helps!


Alan Peters VP Product and Technology at BusinessBlocks

June 20th, 2013

I think the biggest arm of EBay that's under attack right now is PayPal. Square should have been PayPal. And PayPal has missed an entire economy with a lack of virtual goods play.
Specialized marketplaces like Etsy and Shapeways are another way that EBay is losing ground. Geographic or other verticalized strategies could get legs.
If I wanted, for some reason, to just erode EBay, I would start by looking for big waves to ride. What does a mobile first eBay look like. What does a social first EBay look like. Is there an EBay for the industrial internet, etc etc.

Scott Grand Principal Engineer at Amazon

June 21st, 2013

I'm just echoing what Bill and Cynthia said - find a niche you know and love then treat both sides of the transaction well because the EBay horror stories just keep coming and coming.

And without changing the topic, it's probably the same strategy one could use to build a $100M niche social network around it because the user experience on Facebook (IMO) has become just as annoying as EBay.

Michal Stefanow

June 21st, 2013

[I feel awkward to jump in straight away but this is on my mind 24/7]


  • yard sale
  • garage sale
  • car boot sale
  • boxes full of crap... 

To put an auction on eBay it is a process, I would rather snap 20 photos and have my store in seconds --> 

(FB link)

You cannot possibly take this video seriously - - I believe that stock footage with BBC logo and business cliches from 10 years are clearly indicating that it is for lulz... The idea of getting an investment for lulz is not, I really wish I had financial backing so I could focus on the project full-time. Does it happen in real life?

(you may ask where's the problem - we don't have any problems per se - we live in a privileged world - we just have too much crap cluttering our lives)

Aleksandra Czajka Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack

June 22nd, 2013

I never liked eBay. 
When I want to buy something, I just want to buy it. I don't want to deal with bids and stuff. 
In fact, I haven't heard of anyone using eBay since 7 years ago. I strictly go to craigslist now a days. 

Alton Alexander PhD Dropout / Engineer / Data Scientist / Founder

June 23rd, 2013

I am working on a startup in this space as well so naturally I'm very positive towards the peer to peer marketplace business model. We are choosing to focus on community and local bid, ask, barter and trade. It will be very socially integrated. We will provide some middle man support like payment options, escrow, and helping predict the value of used goods but other than that it will just be a glorified craigslist.

I'm also curious what other people think the value propositions and qualities must be included to compete with the alternatives of both Craigslist and ebay.

We are in Beta but only a small subset of individuals that live in south east idaho and we have been having very good success after just 2 weeks. Please PM me if you want a preview or would like to talk more.

Charles-Albert Gorra Harvard Business School - MBA Student

June 27th, 2013

Thanks a lot for your answers! Some really great ideas there, I may reach out directly for more!